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TAKE ACTION: Organic Fish May Be Coming Soon and it is a Horrible Idea

TAKE ACTION: Organic Fish May Be Coming Soon and it is a Horrible Idea

Right now in the U.S., there is no such thing as USDA certified organic fish. Why? Because organic standards for fish have never been passed. That may soon change, however. The USDA is getting close to finalizing organic aquaculture production regulations, based upon recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). And what is being proposed — including allowing ocean-based […]

Environment Fish The Center for Food Safety

Right now in the U.S., there is no such thing as USDA certified organic fish. Why?

Because organic standards for fish have never been passed.

That may soon change, however. The USDA is getting close to finalizing organic aquaculture production regulations, based upon recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

And what is being proposed — including allowing ocean-based fish farms and the use of wild fish, meal or oil — is a horrible idea. Not only will these standards harm the ocean’s ecosystem, but they will impact the integrity of the organic seal.

In an excellent report called Like Water and Oil: Ocean-Based Fish Farming and Organic Don’t Mix, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) outlines the key reasons why the proposed regulations are flawed and why ocean-based farms are completely incompatible with organic standards.

Here are the main points :

Fish farms at sea pollute the marine environment. Their presence in the ocean alters oxygen levels in the vicinity of the farm, creating lifeless zones, and fish farms discharge pollutants, many of which sink to the ocean floor, reducing populations of bottom-dwelling plants and animals and mobilizing mercury and other toxins that have accumulated in the sediment.

* Fish farms at sea pose risks to wild species and aquatic ecosystems. Attracted by feces and uneaten and partially digested feed that flows out of farms, wild fish congregate nearby in large numbers. This not only alters their feeding behavior, but it also exposes the wild fish to diseases and parasites that breed within the confines of the fish farms.

* Fish farms at sea cannot prevent escapes. Escaped farmed-fish harm wild fish and ecosystems through the spread of parasites and pathogens. Disease develops in the cramped sea cages and can later infect wild salmon, trout, and eels as escaped fish swimming in oceans and rivers come into contact with wild species.

* Fish farms at sea cannot contain or control inputs and outputs. Seawater regularly flows in and out of fish farms, carrying with it unknown substances, some of which are synthetic and prohibited by law in organic production.

* Farming migratory fish can never be organic. This statement holds true regardless of the type of system in which they are reared. That is because their confinement in fish farms would curtail their biological need to swim far distances, creating stress. Some migratory species are also anadromous, such as salmon, migrating between freshwater and the ocean during various life stages, a behavior not possible while in containment.

When it comes to farmed-fish, CFS believes that a land-based, closed-loop, recirculating organic system could be possible. Yet, it strongly recommends mandating substantial field-testing to ensure the operational criteria for different types of land-based farms can meet the high standards demanded by the Organic Food Production Act.


If you’re slightly confused because you’ve seen organic fish at a restaurant or market, that is understandable. This fish was certified abroad, not from here, and is not recognized as organic in the U.S.

Yet, if we soon have USDA certified organic fish in this country, it is imperative that the regulations for fish adhere to the basic principles of organic and be comparable to how animals are raised on an organic farm – 100% organic feed, no pesticides or chemicals, the operations must promote biodiversity, etc.

Unfortunately, it is just not possible for ocean-based systems to be in compliance with the basic principles of organic.

And it boggles my mind why the NOSB continues to take action that weakens the integrity of the organic seal. This is an industry that we should be protecting at all costs, instead of allowing standards to be watered down.


If organic is important to you, please take action and sign the e-petition telling the USDA not to approve ocean-based fish farms. To do so, click HERE.

Thank you so much for your concern. I am deeply appreciative.


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  • na says:

    No it doesn’t make sense this is a great idea all of the “problems” other than the top 2 are for any fish, the lifeless zone of low oxygen(the fish are able to handle it…), waste will fall(it is an ocean, you would vote for no planes with the same logic).

  • Jim S says:

    This is a good start to the story, but really paints a broad picture on the industry as a whole. There are places that have extremely high standards in salmon farming. Places like the Faroe Islands, The fact is people want high quality salmon and wild salmon are over fished and have seasons. Not every salmon farm is bad, not every salmon farm is good either. As far as labeling goes, the words all natural and organic should all be banned. Instead, start labeling GMO, MSG and Pesticides in the product.

  • Eric says:

    A very dear friend of mine, while shopping at a Lowe’s Grocery store in Winston-Salem, NC last night, saw “Organic Salmon”!! How fast does the USDA move towards offering toxic food to the masses simply for profit?!!

  • VT says:

    Greed is the powerful driving Force. Good luck.

  • I also received the Newsletter from the Organic Trade Association today. I didn’t see any mention of it. Have that taken a position?

  • Brian Ames says:

    Wild fish populations worldwide and domestically are down and with an increased human population in the future its unlikely and unfeasible that wild populations will be sustained as a food source

    Unless you advocate for not eating fish at all fish farms are a neccessary reality Max. All of the outrage in the world is not going to change those factts and trends. That’s another reason USDA organic wild fish is non existant we have bigger fish to fry!

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Brian,

      You’ve missed the point of this post.

      Whether we need ocean-based fish farms is a matter of debate, but to call fish from ocean-based farms “organic” is just plain wrong and is not compatible with organic standards.

      Live well,

  • Thank you for sounding the alarm. This is a purely profit driven industry that is looking to profit from the organic seal, while devaluing it for other industries. It’s also a difficult issue to raise support since offshore fish farming isn’t in anyone’s back yard. If history offers anything it’s that once a regulation is in place, it’s harder to improve it than it is to weaken it. So now is the time to take action.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Timothy,

      I agree. It is difficult to raise support because it isn’t in anyone’s back yard. I hope people take action and don’t allow this to get approved.

      Thanks for your concern.

      Live well,

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